Ford must face MIT engine patent lawsuit again

REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

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  • MIT researchers said Ford violated patents on fuel-management system
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(Reuters) – A Delaware court should not have ruled for Ford Motor Co in a case brought by Massachusetts Institute of Technology professors who argued the carmaker violated their patents on a fuel-management system for car engines, a U.S. appeals court said Monday.

The lower court misinterpreted parts of the patents in a decision that led to the university dropping the case, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit said.

The parties and their attorneys did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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MIT and the researchers’ company, Ethanol Boosting Systems LLC, which licenses the patents, sued Ford in 2020. They argued the fuel-injection systems in Ford’s EcoBoost and other engines violated their patent rights.

District Judge Colm Connolly found that MIT and EBS’ inventions require two fueling systems that use two different kinds of fuel. The parties agreed that Ford’s system did not infringe under Connolly’s interpretation because it only uses gasoline, but MIT and EBS appealed because they did not agree with the interpretation.

The appeals court threw out Connolly’s determination in a 2-1 decision Monday.

Though parts of the patents described a version of the invention that uses both ethanol and gasoline, nothing in the patents requires the system to use two different fuels, Chief Circuit Judge Kimberly Moore wrote for the majority.

The Federal Circuit sent the case back for further proceedings.

Circuit Judge Pauline Newman said in a dissent that the appeals court should have upheld the lower court’s decision.

The case is Ethanol Boosting Systems LLC v. Ford Motor Co, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, No. 21-1949.

For EBS and MIT: Steven Seigel of Susman Godfrey

For Ford: Michael Connor of Alston & Bird

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Blake Brittain

Thomson Reuters

Blake Brittain reports on intellectual property law, including patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets. Reach him at blake.brittain@thomsonreuters.com

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